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Smith v. United States

October 9, 2009

CHRISTOPHER A. SMITH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Defendant Illinois Associate Circuit Judge Steven Nardulli moves for dismissal [d/e 11], and Defendant United States of America moves for summary judgment [d/e 14].

For the reasons below, both motions are ALLOWED.

I. Background and Summary of Complaint

Plaintiff Christopher A. Smith filed suit, pro se, against the United States Marshals Service, Illinois Circuit Court Associate Judge Steven Nardulli, the Sangamon County Sheriffs Department, and Deputy Lee Rowden of the Sheriffs Department. Plaintiff alleges (1) that the Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by depriving him of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, (2) that the Defendants violated Article I, § 6 of the Illinois Constitution,*fn1 and (3) that Defendants are liable to Plaintiff under Illinois tort law.

The Plaintiff asserts that the alleged violations occurred on December 4-5, 2008. On the afternoon of December 4, employees of the Marshals Service and Sheriffs Department executed an arrest warrant for the Plaintiff at a home on Yale Boulevard in Springfield, Illinois. The Plaintiff alleges that although he followed instructions and did not resist, he was shot with a Taser gun. The Plaintiff further alleges that once in custody, a Marshals Service employee requested his keys to the house. The Plaintiff alleges Marshals Service personnel searched the home without a warrant after receiving the Plaintiff's keys.

On the afternoon of December 5, 2008, the Plaintiff was arraigned before Judge Nardulli and was served with a search warrant for the Yale Boulevard home, signed by Judge Nardulli. The Plaintiff seeks $2,000,000 in damages.

II. Defendant Judge Nardulli's Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss is appropriate if the "plaintiffs cannot establish any set of facts that would entitle them to relief. In making this assessment, we read the complaint liberally and accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and the inferences that may be drawn by them." Int'l Med. Group v. Am. Arbitration Ass'n, 312 F.3d 833, 842 (7th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).

Judge Nardulli argues that the claims against him should be dismissed because he is entitled to absolute judicial immunity. The Court agrees.

Judges are absolutely immune from suits for damages related to judicial acts. See Smith v. Hammond, Ind.,388 F.3d 304, 306 (7th Cir. 2004). A judge's action is a judicial act if it is a function normally performed by a judge and it is apparent that the parties believed they were dealing with the judge in his official capacity. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978).

In this case, the signing of the search warrant was clearly a judicial act. This is a function that is performed by either a judge or magistrate, and the Plaintiff clearly believed that Judge Nardulli was acting in his official capacity.

There are two exceptions to absolute judicial immunity: (1) non-judicial acts, and (2) acts which are judicial in nature, but are "taken in complete absence of jurisdiction." Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 11-12 (1991). The first exception does not apply because signing the warrant was a judicial act.

The second exception does not apply because Judge Nardulli had jurisdiction to sign the warrant under the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure. See 725 ILCS 5/108-3. Furthermore, even if Judge Nardulli was not specifically authorized by statute to sign a search warrant, he most likely would have had jurisdiction for the purposes of judicial immunity, because the Supreme Court of the United States has ...


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